Tuna Noodle Casserole

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My dad used to make us kids his “specialty” (the only thing he could cook) for dinner:  Kraft mac and cheese baked in a casserole dish, with a can of tuna and some frozen peas mixed in.  We loved it.  Since taste buds and waist lines have changed since then, I searched the web for a healthier version. I found a pretty good candidate on Chow.com, made some substitutions to reduce calories and processed carbs, and ended up with this grown-up casserole.  To further lower the carbs, use spinach or any low-carb pasta.  Almost as easy as dad’s, but healthier (and yummier to the mature palate).

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 minced fresh jalapeño (no seeds or membranes)
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon almond flour
1 1/2 cup 2% milk (or any milk)
(Optional:  substitute 1/2 cup of milk with 1/2 cup fat-free half and half)
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (or 1 teaspoon regular yellow mustard, if preferred)
1/4 tsp onion powder
salt
cracked pepper
6 ounces farfalle or penne pasta (semolina, whole wheat, or spinach-based)
3/4 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 3 ounces)
6 ounces high-quality tuna packed in oil, drained
1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves
1/4 cup coarsely grated aged cheddar cheese (about 1 ounce)
1 tablespoon chopped, slivered or sliced almonds

DIRECTIONS

For the casserole:

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray with olive oil an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Once the water is boiling, add pasta and cook until pasta is slightly tender and still stiff in the middle, about 3 -5 minutes. (When bitten, the pasta should have a chewy texture.) Drain, and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.

3. While pasta cooks, heat a large frying pan over medium high heat, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and jalapeño, and cook for 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot and butter foams, add Old Bay Seasoning and flour, stirring until mixture is well incorporated. Cook for 1 minute over medium-low heat while continuously stirring.

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5. Slowly pour milk (or half/half and milk mixture) into flour mixture while stirring, making sure no lumps of flour develop. Return heat to medium and bring to a boil and simmer, stirring often, until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in onion powder. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in sour cream and mustard, and then stir in vegetables.

6. Stir cheddar and then pasta into vegetable-and-milk mixture. Flake tuna into mixture, and stir gently. Spoon into the prepared baking dish.

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For the topping:

7. Combine parsley, almonds, and cheddar in a small bowl, using your hands to mix well. Sprinkle mixture evenly over casserole. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until casserole is bubbling.

Serve with vegetable of your choice.

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